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Tobacco industry “denormalization” campaigns far more effective at promoting smoking cessation

15 years, 1 month ago

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Posted on May 07, 2009, 3 p.m. By gary clark

Campaigns that cast the tobacco industry in a negative light are far more effective at encouraging young people to stop smoking than traditional campaigns that focus on health hazards, the first-ever study on attitudes about the tobacco industry finds.

The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has found that attitudes about the tobacco industry can impact whether or not young adults smoke. In the first study of its kind, researchers asked 1,528 people between the ages of 18 and 25 a series of questions to measure their attitudes on a range of smoking-related topics. Respondents were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with three statements: Taking a stand against smoking is important to me; I want to be involved with efforts to get rid of cigarette smoking; and I would like to see cigarette companies go out of business. The researchers evaluated a wide range of attitudes concerning the tobacco industry, respondents' support of action against the industry, receptivity to advertising, depression, alcohol use, and other factors associated with smoking. Young adults between 18 and 25 were selected as they represent the youngest group legally able to purchase tobacco products, and as such, are the industry's primary target market.

The UCSF investigators found that of those respondents who agreed with the three statements and supported actions against the tobacco industry were one-third as likely to be smokers as those who did not support action against the industry. Those who were current smokers and harbored negative feelings towards the industry were four times more likely to quit smoking than other smokers.

According to the researchers, the study findings illustrate the positive impact of taking a "tobacco industry denormalization" approach in which the public is educated about deceptive practices of the tobacco industry in order to influence their decisions about smoking, versus other anti-smoking advertising campaigns that focus more on the health hazards of smoking. "Running anti-tobacco ads to expose the fact that the tobacco industry kills five million people worldwide annually turns out to be hugely successful in preventing and promoting cessation," emphasizes Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., a study co-author and professor of medicine and director of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. And adds Pamela Ling, M.D., MPH, lead author of the study and assistant professor of general internal medicine at UCSF, "The results show a huge effect of attitudes linked to advertising campaigns that focus on portraying the tobacco industry in a negative light. The tobacco industry cares a lot about public opinion and hates those ads, because the ads make the industry look bad."

News Release: UCSF study shows attitudes toward tobacco industry linked to smoking behavior     Mary 6, 2009

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